Getting to know you: in lieu of solid information about what exactly transpired in the negotiating room, this seems to be the media focus regarding the outcome of the Almaty 2 meeting. Troubling (centrifuges still spinning etc.).
Judging by the headlines, the media consensus from both days seemed to be that the talks stalled (except for the Hindu Times).
Scratching below the surface, the Wall Street Journal had this to say about the results:
“Indeed, the second successive round of talks in Almaty revealed as starkly as possible how little ground has been closed between the parties in the five rounds of talks since negotiations resumed in Istanbul in April 2012.”
That’s not just a comment about the seasons changing; it has practical relevancy to kilograms of accumulated enriched uranium, production and installation of centrifuges (P1 & P2), and progress made in the plutonium route. All this should be obvious to the ordinarily level-headed WSJ. Not this time:
But it wasn’t just tone. In a phrase that seemed more Beatles song than international diplomacy, the U.S. official said “there was something there” during the talks. “There was some small traction.”
There was something there? Like on a first date?
Forgive the cynicism, but this sounds very much like the Iranian view – could it be the P5+1 coordinated its spin with Tehran this time around? We suggest readers consider this from Iran apologist Kaveh Afrasiabi (apparently banished from US media to the Asia Times Online):
“the opportunity for substantive negotiations afforded in Almaty on April 5 and 6 simply means that talks to achieve better understanding of each side’s points of views as well as build confidence have unique values in and of themselves that should not be ignored.”
As we said, getting to know you…
So let’s try to get a better understanding of the Iranian point of view circa April 2013 – see this comment from a senior Iranian politician, a veteran of the decade-long nuclear crisis:
“there is no reason for Iran to remain a member of the NPT and the Islamic Consultative Assembly (the Parliament) can give this issue a second thought.”
On the margins of Almaty 2 we also found arms control types dipping more than their big toe into the icy (Kazakhstan) waters. While placing the onus on the P5+1, Yousaf Butt teams up with former British diplomat Peter Jenkins for this more scientific proposal to advance negotiations.
Not being technical experts ourselves, we’ll have to defer to Arms Control Wonk’s Mark Hibbs for his analysis of the Butt & Jenkins proposal.
Back to the political situation: this New York Times piece reaches a sobering conclusion well worth noting:
“For the first time since Iran and the six powers restarted their dialogue a year ago after a long lapse, North Korea, which had held similar talks in the 1990s that collapsed in betrayal and mistrust, is simultaneously demonstrating an outcome that Iran may find enviable, nonproliferation experts said. North Korea’s arsenal of nuclear weapons, however small, has nonetheless emboldened it to challenge the United States and other nuclear-armed powers, which have responded with caution and — from North Korea’s vantage point — some degree of respect.”
“I do feel as if Iran has inevitably been drawing lessons from how the world is dealing with North Korea,” said Valerie Lincy, executive director of the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control, a Washington-based research and advocacy group. “I would imagine the lessons they’re drawing are not the ones the Western powers would like: That you can weather sanctions, and renege on previous agreements, and ultimately if you stand fast, you’ll get what you’re looking for.”
Words of wisdom for those who believe that time does not stand still, that no vacuum remains empty. Particularly in the Iranian nuclear crisis.